Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Fort Worth

By Chet Garner 5.12.23

You might know Fort Worth as being half of the DFW metroplex, but despite its urban growth, it’s held onto its identity as the rough-and-tumble cowboy town “where the West begins.” And sure enough, its nickname “Cowtown” is as accurate today as it was in the 1850s.

Fort Worth

Cows, Cows, Cows

Fort Worth has been called Cowtown since the early days of the frontier. It’s well deserving of the name: During the latter half of the 1800s, cattle drives all throughout Texas and the South would convene in Cowtown—I mean, Fort Worth—before continuing north to Kansas where the rail lines were. As the epicenter of the Texas longhorn trade, it attracted livestock traders, ranchers, and caballeros.

Anyone wanting to relive the glory days of the Wild West has got to visit the Fort Worth Stockyards. This historic district truly feels like stepping into frontier days. Brick streets, wooden corrals, horseback riders, and cows abound here; they drive an enormous longhorn herd up and down the street twice a day, and tourists flock to see ’em.

There’s also a world-famous stock show and rodeo that’s been running here since 1896. A century later, it remains one of the best in the business. Just be sure to swing through one of the fine western wear stores to pick yourself up a cowboy hat so you’ll fit in.

Panther City

Fort Worth has another nickname that’s been gaining popularity lately: Panther City. Apparently, the name originated from the Dallas-Fort Worth rivalry, when a Dallasite claimed Fort Worth had so little going on, panthers napped in the middle of the street and no one ever noticed. Who knows whether the story’s true or not—but these days, Fort Worth locals are embracing the name and using it as their moniker for breweries, boutiques, and even professional sports teams.

But my favorite (of course) is Panther City BBQ. It started as a passion project food truck by two guys, Chris and Ernest, who decided to put a Tex-Mex spin on Texas barbecue. In fact, they were one of the first to push the boundaries of barbecue beyond salt-and-pepper seasoning. Their brisket is to die for (they’re regularly on Texas Monthly’s list of top barbecue joints), and they make it a real Tex-Mex experience. They top cups of street corn with chopped brisket, they serve up their barbecue meat on tacos—everything has a Mexican flair to it. It is, without a doubt, one of my favorites in Texas.

Another can’t-miss restaurant in Fort Worth is Joe T. Garcia’s. It’s been serving up some of the best Mexican grub in North Texas for close to 100 years now. The restaurant’s indoors are small, but there’s an enormous walled-off patio covered with blossoming flowers, trickling fountains, and flowering vines on verandas—it feels like the Tex-Mex Garden of Eden. It’s packed with hundreds of people on a normal night, but waiting in line is all part of Joe T. Garcia’s legendary experience.

Fort Worth

Out on the Cowtown

It’s sort of a strange juxtaposition, but amidst all of Fort Worth’s Wild West history, it’s also got three of the most high-end art galleries in the country all on the same block. You’ll find all genres of art: There’s the Amon Carter Museum of American Art that’s home to great western pieces including some Remingtons, Russels, and O’Keeffes. Then there’s the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, with some mind-bending exhibits that left me both dropping my jaw and scratching my head. The third is the Kimbell Art Museum, which showcases stuff dating back to the Renaissance. It’s the kind of art you’d think you could only find in Rome or New York, but here it is, right here in Fort Worth.

If you’re tired of historical things in Fort Worth, you’ve gotta end your daytrip on Magnolia Avenue. It’s a single street that runs through Fort Worth’s downtown that had been pretty abandoned until about a decade ago. Now it’s a super-hip, vibrant area with all these amazing shops, restaurants, boutiques. I love MELT Ice Creams, which makes fresh waffle cones and some of the best butterfat ice cream in Texas. Avoca Coffee Roasters is another hot spot, and it’s seriously serving up the best coffee on the planet.

Grab a coffee or an ice cream cone and hit up some of the other odd little shops on Magnolia Ave, like this little glassblowing studio called SiNaCa Studios where you can watch these artisans create glass platters and ornaments. There’s another quirky little shop called Ephemera Terrariums, where you can build your own terrarium; you take a glass bowl, fill it with moss and oak chips and little plants, and before you know it you’ve crafted your own little ecosystem. It’s crazy fun to make, and—along with your cowboy hat from the Stockyards—serves as a nice souvenir from your daytrip to Cowtown.

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